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Summer rest and the Lord's Day

In the Gospel Jesus invited us to “Come away… and rest awhile” (Mk. 6:31). This is certainly a timely summertime theme when many of us acknowledge our need for rest and relaxation.  Whatever the rhythms of our lives, when school is out or harvest is complete, from time to time we need to refresh ourselves. We need time away from our ordinary work and daily concerns in order to restore our energies, to enjoy the beauties of creation, to spend time with family and friends, to remember our Creator.  The rhythm of a regular “sabbath” rest is very much a part of God’s plan for us and for our wellbeing: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath” (Mk. 2:27).

Unfortunately the enjoyment of true leisure is practically a lost art in our culture.  Many of us are addicted to busyness and activity.   We find it difficult to simply relax.  Even during our vacations we often feel so compelled to stay connected with work or fill our days with so much travel and activity that we return even more weary and dissipated in spirit than before.

Of course, sometimes the burdens and responsibilities of our lives do not allow the type of vacation that we might long for and need.  Still, the Lord desires to refresh us.  “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).  The restorative rest and refreshment that our hearts long for will always elude us until we recognize the spiritual nature of our longing.  Saint Augustine wrote many centuries ago, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you!” 

For Christians Sunday is our weekly sabbath.  Sunday, the Lord’s Day, is part of the rhythm that the law of God and the law of the Church, have established and made holy for our wellbeing and redemption.  We need the Lord’s Day.  Unfortunately, we have lost sight of the uniqueness of the Lord’s Day and have replaced it with “the weekend.”   The two are not at all equivalent. 

At the heart of the Lord’s Day is the acknowledgment of all that God has done by creating and redeeming us in Christ.  It is the day when we commemorate the Resurrection of the Lord.  It is our primary holy day which roots our lives in worship through the celebration of Mass.  The Sunday Eucharist establishes the rhythm for the rest of our week.   We renew the sacrifice of Christ our High Priest who in turn nourishes us with the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.  The Mass is the source from which flows the grace that enlivens and sanctifies all of our work and leisure activities. 

In our secular culture it is simply not possible to sustain a living faith, to live in friendship with Christ and maintain a vibrant Catholic outlook unless we are committed to keeping the Lord’s Day holy.  This is a very real challenge.  Despite how our society diminishes the importance of Sunday, it is not a day just like any other.  It is not merely part of the “weekend.”  Our faithful observance of the Lord’s Day reminds us of who we are before God as members of a community rooted in the mysteries of Christ.  It is a day for worship, for rest, for family; a day to build relationships within the Christian community, and to form and exercise our faith in service to others.   

“Come away…and rest awhile.”  Jesus invites each of us to refresh ourselves at the sources of life that the Lord’s Day offers us each week.